Straightening a Fruitless Mulberry Tree

Old 08-05-08, 02:52 PM
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Straightening a Fruitless Mulberry Tree

Greetings. I'm new to the site. I have a 10 yr. old Fruitless Mulberry approx 15' high X 15' wide. The trunk is about 6" diameter. I live in So. Cal. It's leaning at about 15 degrees from verticle, enough that I'm concerned that a strong wind or storm might knock it over. Should I be concerned? If so, How do I straighten it? It's a beautiful tree and extremely healthy. I'd hate to lose it.
Old 08-10-08, 07:06 AM
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Hi Hionlyph,

The cause of the lean should be determined. If it's from soil irregularity or possibly poor root structure. Generally this is best determined by a certified arborist. Sometimes the tree has just grown that way and reduction of some limbs on the side of the lean will help. From this site:

Root Problems

Road construction, severing for utilities, soil erosion, trampling damage, debarking, partial windthrow, omnibus decay and root disease are the considerations here. Certain conditions are widely agreed upon as very serious:

* Any diagnosable root disease that kills and decays roots (see the Root Disease pages).
* A recent, uncorrected lean, often visible by soil irregularity associated with tipping of the root system. This indicates that a tree has lost its grip on the earth and is beginning to fall. By "correction" in this context we mean curvature of the leaning stem to correct the orientation due to negative geotropic growth.
* More than half the major roots have been severed, severely damaged, or have decay.

This does not mean that other root conditions are not serious. Any decay found in roots should be carefully examined and considered.

Poor Crown Architecture

This may be caused by poor pruning in the past. Sharp bends or crooks in the branches are naturally weak, liable to failure. If a tree is topped, multiple branches may come out just below, they are usually weakly attached. Failure potential is considered high when tree leans more than 45 or when it leans and has another defect in the main stem. A significant lean that appears to have occurred recently and has not been corrected by negatively geotropic top growth ("unnatural lean") should be taken seriously.


A leaning tree may or may not be a substantial hazard. It is necessary to distinguish between two types:

1. Natural lean
Not the greatest term, but here we mean trees that have been leaning for much of their life. You can see sweep (curvature) of the stem, or maybe even a crook, where the tree corrected the lean. The upper stem is vertical, not leaning. There is no evidence of recent change, such as soil/root plate movement, cracking or stress bending of the stem. Sometimes natural leans can increase slowly over time as the weight of the stem increases.

2. Unnatural lean
Here we mean a lean that is due to a relatively recent change in the orientation of the stem. You may see evidence of soil/root disturbance indicating that the root system has shifted in the soil. You may see cracking in the stem as it gives way. There may even be bending of the stem going on, usually associated with decay. The upper stem in an unnatural lean is mostly not vertical, but leaning. Trees with an unnatural lean have already begun to fail and are extremely hazardous. I would suggest closing sites immediately until the tree can be removed.

Some specialists suggest that any lean greater than 15, particularly if it is in the direction of the target, is probably cause for removal. Be careful not to put too much emphasis on direction of lean. If you have experience felling trees, you know how much a little wind and holding wood can influence the direction of fall. It would not be at all surprising to have a tree go down at right angles to the direction of lean.
Be sure to get 3 references for similar work done and check them. It's often amazing what you can learn when talking to former customers.


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